Yesterday I had one of those pleasing experiences where I got the same message from three different sources -- one inside my head, from me, and the other two from outside, a guided meditation and a book I was reading.
First, me. I was idly going to sleep, not thinking about much of anything in particular, when the notion mental Tai Chi popped into my mind.
For seventeen years I've been practicing Tai Chi under the guidance of a skilled instructor who is adept at teaching the martial aspect of Tai Chi, as well as the more typical relaxation/exercise aspect.
One of the keys to Tai Chi, an internal martial art (in contrast to an external marital art like karate), is not meeting force with force. Instead, when it comes to dealing with some sort of attack, the idea is encapsulated in ABC.
Accept. Blend. Control. There's other words to describe these concepts. I just like the ABC'ness of these.
Say someone tries to punch you. Though this takes practice, the goal is to guide the punch away from you with minimal force. You accept the punch without letting it hit you, such as by gently diverting the punch past your head -- maybe with your hand/arm, or just by turning your body.
In doing this, you're blending with the attacker's movement, using their energy to redirect the movement into a more productive direction than you getting hit in the head.
Then control probably might be called for. This gets into defensive joint locks and other aspects of the martial side of Tai Chi that resemble controlling moves in other styles like judo, jujitsu, and such. The aim isn't to injure the other person, but to stop them from attacking you.
It struck me that mental Tai Chi is similar.
Except the "attacker" is words spoken by someone else, or perhaps our own mind. Instead of forcefully resisting what feels like a threat, we do our best to to accept the words and let them slide by, blending with them rather than trying to push them away or respond with our own attacking speech.
This is an ideal, of course.
I don't claim to be adept at doing this. I often react to an insult or accusation as a threat, rather than doing the mental Tai Chi thing. Meaning, I jump right to trying to control the other person, or my own mind, rather than first accepting and blending.
That morning I listened to a guided meditation by Jeff Warren on my iPhone's Calm app. It was called Dissolve the Remove. Here's a partial transcript.
The meditation teacher Susan Tiver has a nice phrase. She says meditation is often described as observing something, like the breath, as though we were operating from a distance, from a remove.
But meditation, she says, is also about dissolving the remove, about collapsing distance. Getting really close to our experience, really feeling what's here. I love this duality. That sometimes we want space around our experience. That's legit.
And sometimes we want to collapse that space. We want to become more intimate with everything that's going on, more intimate with exactly how this moment is feeling, I'm right inside it.
...There sometimes can be a sense that we're up here looking, and the sensation is down there, it's down in the body. Or maybe it's a sound that's out there in the world. Let's see if we can dissolve that remove a little bit.
Come on down from the observing head, and climb into the body. So this is about feeling. Instead of only observing body sensations from a distance, see if you can feel what's here from the inside.
...When we truly dissolve the remove, what's left? Just one thing. A single experience of self and world, a single continuum of feeling and sensing that kind of blurs the boundary between inside and out. Intimate with everything.
In the morning I also read some pages in Happiness and How It Happens by The Happy Buddha (Suryacitta Malcolm Smith). Here's a passage I liked.
So how do we let go?
As an example, let's look at how we relax and let go when we meditate. When we sit, we tune into the felt experience of the body. As we do this, we sense how the body is. We may see that we're a little agitated, maybe a little tense.
We feel how we are and we accept how we are.
We don't try to relax but let everything be simply as it is. We let go trying to be different from how we are, which leads to greater relaxation. This is the essence of meditation, nothing special at all.
Within the felt experience of the body, we let whatever comes into awareness simply be and move on. Our work isn't to interfere or to try to change it, but to observe it and let go and relax.